HOTEL DETECTIVE

Gone are the house dicks from behind the potted palms. Greg Garon uses psychology and jujitsu to guard his Chateau Frontenac beat

FRANK HAMILTON February 1 1950

HOTEL DETECTIVE

Gone are the house dicks from behind the potted palms. Greg Garon uses psychology and jujitsu to guard his Chateau Frontenac beat

FRANK HAMILTON February 1 1950

HOTEL DETECTIVE

Gone are the house dicks from behind the potted palms. Greg Garon uses psychology and jujitsu to guard his Chateau Frontenac beat

FRANK HAMILTON

IN THE crowded lobby of the Chateau Frontenac the delegate from Milwaukee turned to the delegate from Quebec.

Pardon me,” he said, “I don’t believe we’ve met yet, but I see by your convention button you’re a local delegate. I wonder if you could point out the hotel detective for me. I’m supposed to meet him here to discuss the arrangements for tonight’s shindig ”

“But most assuredly, Monsieur,” bowed the delegate from Quebec. “It is a great pleasure. He is my best friend. In fact, I am he.”

The eyes of the delegate from Milwaukee popped. The trim young man before him wore Mexican sandals, a lavender shirt, a surrealist tie, and a brilliant red, yellow and black check sport coat with a large blue-ribboned convention rosette pinned to the lapel.

“You are the house dick?” he gulped.

“But of course, Monsieur,” the delegate from Quebec smiled. “Permit me to introduce myself. I am Grégoire Garon, chief security officer of the Chateau Frontenac. At your service,” he added with a courtly flourish.

The debonair M. Garon is an uninvited delegate to countless conventions, receptions, and parties in the Chateau Frontenac each year and, like the man from Milwaukee, the guests who meet him are invariably surprised to learn that underneath the lavender shirt beats the heart of a hotel detective.

Most people still think of a house dick as a paunchy, slightly punch-drunk, retired city detective with fallen arches. Actually, Garon is typical of the new school of specially trained hotel security officers who in the past few years have gradually replaced the colorful but foot-weary house dicks of yesteryear.

The hotel detective no longer resembles a potted palm with pants and a moth-eaten bowler hat. Nor is his office still the overstuffed chair behind

the third pillar on the right in the hotel lobby. Today’s security officer uses modern, scientific methods of detection and protection. His office, equipped with everything from exhaustive files to fingerprinting equipment, is the nerve centre of the hotel’s protective system.

The hotel detective now enjoys much greater responsibilities and authority. He is answerable only to the manager and his authority over the staff is just as absolute. For instance, one of his new duties is to interview all prospective employees. He must be convinced of their trustworthiness before they can be hired.

As chief security officer of the CPR’s plush Chateau Frontenac, Canada’s best-known and second-largest hotel, Grégoire Garon is a case in point. This cheerful, Continued on page 36

Hotel Detective

Continued from page 21

45-year-old, chess-playing Canadien smokes Turkish cigarettes, dines frequently on lobster, chicken, filet mignon and wine, wears natty $125 suits and rainbow-hued ties, and sometimes disguises himself as Adolph Hitler.

In the past year he successfully handled more than 99% of the hotel’s 9,123 complaints which ranged all the way from noisy room parties to (he disappearance of $25,000 in jewels. In the process, he has turned up more than $150,000 worth of missing valuables belonging to guests, and a mixed assortment of lawbreakers including hotel thieves, card sharks, bad-cheque artists, counterfeiters, pickpockets, bill jumpers and towel swipers.

Grégoire Garon is dark, ruggedly handsome in a Gallic way. His 200 pounds are solidly packed into a trim, broad-shouldered figure that stands exactly 5 feet 10. His dark brown eyes are friendly but shrewd, and his expressive face is framed by jet-black hair and a perpetual 5-o’clock shadow (he shaves three times a day).

Hisexpression is deceptively gentle for M. Garon is a tough man to tangle with.

His personal armament includes a blue-steel .32 revolver (he can drill the ace of spades at 50 paces), a blackjack and handcuffs. Strangely enough, he has never used any of these in the line of duty although he has arrested hundreds of criminals, many of them armed. One reason is that he is an expert at jujitsu and commando-type fighting. He once subdued two fightingdrunk wrestlers, each weighing over 250 pounds, in less than three minutes. And like all hotel detectives he has a special house-dick grip which he uses when he takes a culprit’s arm so he can’t make a scene in the lobby.

However, Garon abhors violence and shuns any unnecessary display of force. He prefers to employ psychology, diplomacy and acting ability. Except in the case of a known criminal his approach to a suspect must be diplomatic in the extreme, and he must be constantly careful of false arrest for hotels have a marked aversion to being

Hitler Breaks Up Parties

Garon has to use diplomacy in just about every phase of his work, even to hushing a noisy room party. Garon knows that when people are paying as high as $20 a night to stay at* the Chateau, they sometimes resent the house dick quieting them down.

“They do not go to a hotel to be at home. They go for a good time,” Garon says. “They want to have a party, a vacation. Whenever possible I move particularly gay parties into an isolated room; however, even this is often a delicate operation.”

Garon has found that while some parties react to the diplomatic approach, others respond better to the firm approach, the good-natured approach, the tough approach, the pleading approach, or to the humorous approach. Celebrating guests who fall into this last category get the Hitler treatmi nt, a Garon stratagem.

In his suit-coat pocket he carries a comb and a false mustache with gummed back. In a jilfy he flicks his straight black hair down across his forehead, fixes the little black mustache in place, puts a fanatic light in his eyes. Then he raps authoritatively on the door of the offending room.

The person who answers almost invariably retreats in surprise, though one very tipsy Englishman nearly

broke up the act by exclaiming, “I say, old boy, we’ve met somewhere before, haven’t we?” As a rule, however, Herr Hitler marches into the room unopposed.

“Who Who are you?” someone always stammers.

“I am the hotel security officer,” Garon replies in an exaggerated German accent.

“But you look like Adolf Hitler.”

“Shush!” Garon whispers, looking furtively about. “This is the first job I’ve been able to land since I lost my business in Europe.”

Here the partying guests realize that it is all a joke and Garon gets his first laugh. He then proceeds to give them a short speech, still in an exaggerated German accent, on the necessity of keeping the party quiet.

So far, Garon’s Hitler treatment has never failed.

As a detective, Garon is convinced that he is Hercule Poirot in the flesh. Like Agatha Christie’s famous little French detective, Garon solves problems with “ze little grey cells.” When a particularly baffling case comes up he retires to his office and refuses to speak to anyone until he has thought out a solution.

No Teeth to Talk With

Many people who have stayed at the Chateau will readily agree that Garon is a real-life Hercule Poirot. Recently he received an admiring letter from three wealthy American women in which he was called just that. A few weeks earlier the women had been guests at the Chateau where, a scant 15 minutes after their arrival, they indignantly reported the theft of two bottles of whisky. They were sure the bellhop had taken the stuff.

But Garon, with swift and cunning deduction, tracked the missing liquor down to a “forgetful” clerk in a Provincial Liquor Commission store.

Another time a woman reported the theft of two diamond rings worth $10,000. She was sure the chambermaid had stolen them; Garon was certain the girl was honest. And, by making the guest recount what she had been wearing when she last wort, the rings, he guessed that the jewelry would be in the matching handbag put aside when she changed her outfit. It

Cases like these occur almost daily. For Garon has found that in fully 90% of the cases reported as theft the missing article is not stolen at all, but either just misplaced or left at home or at another hotel.

Once, three hours before he was scheduled to address a banquet in the Chateau’s main bnllroom, a former war correspondent phoned Garon and howled in an outraged lisp that someone had stolen his false teeth. Twenty minutes before the banquet started hawkshaw Garon had recovered the missing molars. They had been stolen all right, but no charges were ever pressed. It seems that the ex-war correspondent was a rather pompous fellow and a bunch of fellow newspapermen had decided to deflate him by absconding with his store teeth until after his speech.

Grégoire Garon’s success as a hotel detective is undoubtedly due in large part to his training in the CPR’s Investigation Department. This highly specialized department is a Belf-contained 5,000-mnn police force within the globe-girdling Canadian Pacific transportation system.

The hotels are one of the investigation department’s biggest jobs because they arc miniature cities and are tempting, often highly vulnerable, to lawbreakers. Of all the CPR’s hotels,

the stately, multiturreted Chateau Frontenac is considered the most difficult to police. In its oak-beamed lobby, royalty and statesmen, millionaires and movie stars rub shoulders with Mr. and Mrs. Average America, for the Chateau is a tourist mecca.

This concentration of people and wealth in one building makes the Chateau a prime target for crooks and a king-sized headache for the house dick.

Garon looks on the Chateau as a village with a continually changing population. The 18-floor hotel with its 811 rooms houses an average of 1,500 guests a day. Of these, 1,000 check out and another 1,000 check in every day. Despite all precautions a certain percentage of deadbeats and undesirables is bound to trickle in.

Add to these figures the hotel’s 975 employees, the 3,000-odd nonresidents who use its restaurants, bar, dance floor, stores and other facilities each day, and the 6,000 others who just walk through the lobby and public rooms each week end, and you have just a rough idea of chief security officer Garon’s problem.

Dying Is Not Allowed

His staff of 15 security officers (sometimes all on duty at the same time) may seem hopelessly inadequate in numbers, but it is large compared to the lone house dick of yesterday. Sometimes when the going gets really tough — especially when there are several large conventions at the same time—Garon hires off-duty city detectives to help out. They always jump at the chance of making a few extra bucks.

Garon, too, often pursues a crook outside the hotel. Besides his CPR police badge he also carries another badge that identifies him as a special constable of the Quebec Provincial

Inside the hotel the smallest “unpleasantness” is always shrouded in strictest secrecy and soon is lost in the hubbub of daily routine.

The two words that head the taboo list of the Chateau are death and prostitution. In the hotelman’s vocabulary, murder, suicide, accidental and natural death, are all lumped under the one veiled term: demise. They are all “natural deaths,” or at the very worst, “accidental deaths” as far as the public is concerned. As Garon laconically puts it, “dying of any sort is not permitted on these premises.” Neither is prostitution, the only difference being that the hotel has more control over the latter.

Prostitution, however, is not a big problem at the Chateau. Garon knows every professional and amateur harlot in Quebec City by sight and he has only to look at them for them to vanish. There is, though, always the problem of men bringing women friends to their rooms, or vice versa.

The Chateau, like other hotels, has to treat this situation with much tact. They do not consider themselves the protectors of their guests’ morals, nor the judges. They allow visitors in the rooms until 11 p.m. After that hour guests who are registered as singles and who have visitors in their rooms are tactfully reminded of this rule. Guests who had the foresight to register as doubles are not disturbed.

On rare occasions very prominent men who are frequent guests of the hotel are not disturbed either. They are merely charged as a double.

Most people wonder how the house dick knows that a man has a woman in his room. Many hotels have transoms or grilles in the doors and the night patrolman on his hourly check merely listens at the door and reports to the security office. The Chateau has no

door grilles but Garon’s eyes in every part of the hotel—the bellboys, the elevator operators, the maids, the room service waiters—keep him informed.

The Chateau has never had its grand piano stolen from its ballroom as one Western hotel had a few years ago, but Garon has caught thieves walking out with paintings from Chateau salons, silverware from Chateau dining rooms, and blankets from Chateau beds. Once he nabbed a man who was trying to smuggle out one of the hotel’s three-foot-high antique ash-tray stands under his coat.

One time, on a tip from a chambermaid, Garon stopped a gentle-looking little old lady just as she was leaving the hotel with her bags. Before she left her room she had stripped it of everything from bed linen to the window drapes.

Yet, despite all his efforts, the Chateau loses upward of 35,000 pieces of silverware and linen each year.

Behind the scenes at the Chateau Garon has much to guard. The cashier has between $30,000 and $50,000 in small bills on hand each day. The hotel safe frequently holds as much as $200,000 in cash and valuables deposited for safekeeping by guests.

On its three underground “cellar floors” are the Chateau’s stores and shops—electrician, laundry, locksmith, plumber, printer, carpenter, upholsterer, and dozens of others, each a completely self-contained unit with its own staff, equipment and stores.

The estimated value of the “stealable” stores is close to $1 million. For example, there is always $40,000 worth of canned and fresh food on hand, double this in meat, fish and dairy products, and eight times this in liquors, wines and beers.

Garon, son of a Canadien farmer, the seventh of 13 children, became known as “the man in Room 5112” when he was chosen to fill the Chateau berth. He had started in the Chateau at 19 as an elevator boy, and for 19 years quietly worked his way through the ranks to the night auditor post. When he was 38 he left to join the CPR’s Investigation Department; on his return he found welcoming smiles from old friends and the willing co-operation a house dick must get from the staff.

Snared by a Secret Snap

Garon approves of the tag “the man in Room 5112” for “diplomatic reasons.” I understood what he meant by this when I overheard one bellboy tell another in the Chateau’s crowded lobby: “Hey, Joe, the gentleman in

fifty-one twelve wants to see you as soon as you’re through there.”

To guests within earshot this meant nothing. But if he had said “the security officer” or “the house dick” it might have shattered the Chateau’s carefully cultivated genteel atmosphere.

Room 5112 looks like what it is—a bedroom turned into an office. There is a bed, a dresser and a washstand; there are also filing cabinets, desks, tables, a battered typewriter, and a cluttered bulletin board. The last is covered with photos and descriptions of known and suspected (but not necessarily “wanted”) hotel thieves, confidence men, card sharks and miscellaneous other miscreants.

These secret snapshots have led to the downfall of more than one criminal. One time Garon spotted two men who resembled candid photos of suspects getting into a Chateau elevator. He followed them up to the crown floor (the 13th) where he caught them in the act of rifling a room. Though both were armed, Garon arrested them without even drawing his gun. Later

they confessed to 183 hotel robberies. They drew 10 years apiece.

Most mornings Garon leaves his modern apartment in suburban St. Pascal de Baylon before 7. His first duty on reaching his office is to check with his chief assistant Georges Favreau on what happened during the night.

Then he checks the night patrol chart. This is a punch-clock system ensuring the night patrolmen cover all the corridors once an hour.

Garon’s next job is breakfast. This, like his other meals, almost invariably consists of lobster, chicken, or filet mignon—what he calls “thought-producing food.” Besides meals and train passes the CPR also gives him $3,000 a year to protect the Chateau and contents.

Garon also makes an undisclosed amount in tips from guests he has served well. He always refuses a tip on principle, but if pressed hard enough he accepts. (“I used to be a bellboy, you know.”) He calls this his cigarette money and he admits that

his Yenidje leaf cigarettes are expensive.

After breakfast Garon checks the lost and found department—about 2,000 articles a week. Some 20% of these are never claimed. Among the articles unclaimed for 10 or more years: a Japanese parasol, a raccoon

coat, a straw hat, a teddy bear, and half a bottle of whisky.

Around 9 a.m. Garon meets with manager George Jessop or one of the three assistant managers, William Cashman, Dave McCartney and Stanley Higgins, to discuss any important questions such as pending conventions. Conventions are always big headaches for Garon.

“In the summer,” he explains, “the tourists drive all day and want to sleep at night. In the winter people come by train for conventions and the winter sports and they want to whoop it up at

After conference Garon is ready for “the daily routine of guarding the hotel and protecting the guests—sometimes from themselves.” The highlight

comes at a different hour each day when he escorts the cashier to the bank. The cashier carries around $50,000 in a brown brief case. Garon carries his revolver in his pocket.

He changes his clothes half a dozen times a day. He keeps six of his 24 suits and 50 of his 200 gaudy ties in his office. The changing-clothes routine is part of his job.

If he appeared about the hotel in, say, a blue suit all day people would begin to notice him. So in the morning he might wear a quiet business suit but brilliant tie, looking the typical young business executive. At lunch he may be mingling with conventioning guests, dressed in another suit complete with convention rosette. During the winter season he frequently wears ski clothes. In the summer he often dresses like an American tourist.

“It is a bit of a paradox,” Monsieur Grégoire Garon often says. “House dicks used to be conspicuous because they tried to be inconspicuous. Today we are inconspicuous because we are conspicuous. Is it not so?” ★